Cole Strange

OL Notes: Vikings, Bengals, Pats, Nijman

Garrett Bradbury suffered a back injury last season, and the Vikings center saw his absence extended after he aggravated the malady in a car accident. Bradbury missed the Vikings’ final five regular-season games but returned for the team’s wild-card loss. The Vikings circled back to the former first-round pick in March, re-signing him to a three-year, $15.75MM deal. That contract becomes a pay-as-you go accord after 2023, and Bradbury has run into familiar trouble. The Vikings ruled out the fifth-year center for their Thursday-night game in Philadelphia due to a back injury.

We felt positive about him, and he’s done everything and had no issues whatsoever through a pretty physical training camp for us to feel really good about it,” Kevin O’Connell said (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) of Bradbury’s back issue. “It’s just how this game goes sometimes, and he’s a tough guy, big part of the interior of our offensive line and we’ll hope to get him back as soon as we can.”

Austin Schlottmann, who returned last week after a broken leg ended his 2022 season, is set to start at center against the Eagles. Here is the latest from the O-line landscape:

  • The Bengals completed an unexpected transaction this week, releasing La’el Collins from the reserve/PUP list. The team had given Collins a three-year, $21MM deal to step in at right tackle, which he did for 15 games. But ACL and MCL tears ended his 2022 season in Week 16 and prevented him from starting this season on time. The Bengals have Jonah Williams at right tackle opposite big-ticket UFA addition Orlando Brown Jr., but Jackson Carman — who replaced Williams at LT in the playoffs last season — is not the top backup any longer. D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, is positioned as Cincinnati’s swing tackle now, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carman has started two playoff games but lost three position battles in his three training camps. Viewed as a project coming out of East Carolina, Smith has played 56 career offensive snaps.
  • Reliability questions surrounded the Patriots‘ offensive line, and the team responded accordingly when setting its 53-man roster. Before Riley Reiff ended up on IR, the Patriots submitted an initial 53 with 11 O-linemen. No other team’s first 53 included that many, as Mike Reiss of observes. Only seven teams kept 10 blockers, though that is where New England’s contingent stands after the Reiff move. The Pats needed to use this depth early. Calvin Anderson, who came off the Pats’ reserve/non-football illness list late in the preseason, started at right tackle in Week 1. Guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu were out, moving fourth- and fifth-round rookies — Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi — into the lineup. Onwenu and Strange have each logged two limited practices this week, though both Sow and left tackle Trent Brown suffered concussions in the opener, leaving their Week 2 statuses in doubt.
  • The Commanders, Packers and Vikings each restructured an O-line deal recently. Washington created $6MM in cap space by moving $7.5MM of Charles Leno‘s base salary into a signing bonus and adding three void years, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Green Bay topped that by adding four void years to Yosh Nijman‘s deal, creating $2.54MM in cap space, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. This proves interesting due to Nijman being on a second-round RFA tender; he is due to be a 2024 free agent. Minnesota added $9.99MM in space by restructuring Brian O’Neill‘s contract, per Yates.

Patriots, G Cole Strange Agree To Deal

One of two first-rounders who had not signed their rookie contracts, Cole Strange is set to make his Patriots employment official. The rookie guard is expected to sign his deal Wednesday,’s Adam Caplan tweets.

Strange’s signing will leave Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett as the league’s lone unsigned first-rounder. Strange’s four-year deal will include a fifth-year option and, based on the final three first-rounders’ contractual terms, be fully guaranteed.

The Patriots drafted Strange 29th overall, and although the Tennessee-Chattanooga lineman was not expected to go in Round 1, this year’s Nos. 30-32 picks — George Karlaftis, Daxton Hill and Lewis Cine — were given fully guaranteed contracts. This has marked a progression for players chosen late in the first round. When the 2011 CBA began this era of rookie deals, late-first-round picks’ contracts were not fully guaranteed.

Strange is expected to be an immediate starter for the Pats, who saw 2021 guard starters Shaq Mason and Ted Karras depart. The Pats traded Mason to the Buccaneers for a fifth-round pick, doing so after Karras defected to the Bengals in free agency. Strange is expected to join Michael Onwenu as New England’s first-string guards.

Using his COVID-19-created additional eligibility year, Strange ended up a five-year starter for the Mocs. The 24-year-old blocker spent six years at the Division I-FCS program, redshirting in 2016. Although, the pandemic drastically altered the FCS squads’ schedules in 2020. Chattanooga played five games as part of its 2020 campaign. Strange returned in 2021 to start nine games at left guard, his primary college spot, and two at left tackle.

Trent Brown At LT, Isaiah Wynn At RT, During Patriots’ Minicamp; Latest On Cole Strange

Could Isaiah Wynn‘s absence from Patriots OTAs, which compelled New England to deploy Trent Brown at left tackle in Wynn’s stead, have precipitated a permanent shakeup? Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required), Wynn suited up at right tackle during mandatory minicamp last week, while Brown remained at left tackle.

Howe reminds us that, at the Patriots’ 2018 minicamp — during Brown’s first stint in Foxborough — Brown worked at LT while Wynn lined up at RT. The two players switched roles for that year’s training camp, but Wynn suffered an Achilles tear during a preseason game several weeks later, and he missed the entire season as a result. Following Wynn’s injury, Brown returned to left tackle and parlayed a strong showing at the position into a lucrative free agent contract with the Raiders the following offseason.

Still, there is precedent for the team to use Brown and Wynn at LT and RT, respectively, before training camp begins, only to have them flip-flop when the serious work gets underway in late July. On the other hand, 2018 was Wynn’s rookie season, so it could be that head coach Bill Belichick was simply easing him into the professional ranks during minicamp that year.

So there is no way of knowing what Belichick is currently envisioning with respect to his OL bookends, though he downplayed the significance of last week’s minicamp alignment. When asked about Wynn’s RT time, Belichick said it is in keeping with the team’s modus operandi for the last 20 years, thereby suggesting that he is merely trying to create positional flexibility (via Andy Hart of

Wynn, who is entering a platform year and whose earning power could be seriously undermined if he were to remain at right tackle, is saying the right things at this point. “Do I like the change? It’s wherever they need me, player,” he said. When asked about his contract status, he replied, “I ain’t worried about no contract right now. I’m focused on being the best player I can be for the team so we can move forward to the season. … That’ll come when it comes.”

Another factor to consider is that Brown, not Wynn, has been the one developing chemistry with rookie first-rounder Cole Strange, the team’s presumptive LG. Although many pundits believed New England was reaching when it made Strange the No. 29 overall pick of this year’s draft, Mike Reiss of said the Chattanooga product looks like a plug-and-play starter, so the reps shared by him and whomever lines up to his left are especially meaningful.

On a related note, Strange is just one of two 2022 first-rounders who have yet to sign their rookie deals (Steelers QB Kenny Pickett is the other). As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, there are a few reasons for that. One, the Pats simply do not have enough cap space at the moment, which is a matter that can easily be resolved. Two, it could be that Strange is angling for larger roster bonuses and lower base salaries over the life of his rookie deal, just so he can get his money more quickly every year. And finally, while the top 28 picks of the 2021 draft received fully-guaranteed contracts, last year’s No. 29 selection, Eric Stokes, received a 96% guarantee for the fourth and final year of his rookie accord. Since Strange is this year’s No. 29 pick, perhaps a modicum of guaranteed money is at issue between player and team.

However, even the 30th-32nd picks in this year’s draft class received a 100% guarantee, so Strange has some leverage here if that really is one of the reasons for the delay.